“Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them as the Lord had said.” (Exodus 7:13)
HARDENED HEARTS AND GOD'S LOVE
From very early on in the Moses/Israelites/Exodus story, we start to hear about Pharaoh’s heart being hardened. There is a reference to Yahweh hardening Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 7:3), but one gets the impression that the Lord knew Pharaoh had already hardened his own heart, and that it was going to take something really big - or many big things in a row - before Pharaoh relented and let the Jews leave Egypt. And so, with each of the plagues leading up to the last one, we hear that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened (See, e.g., Exodus 7:22, 8:15, 8:19, 8:32, 9:7, 9:12, 9:35, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10). This is a tremendous amount of heart-hardening!
This part of the pre-Exodus story leads me to the following observations and questions:
God knew Pharaoh’s heart, God knew Moses’ heart. God knows our hearts, too.
I wonder why it is that sometimes I do things that are akin to hardening my heart toward God. I can be resistant to God’s guidance. I can be reactive if I think God is asking me to do something that seems too hard to do. I can, in effect, put God on the witness stand and accuse God of not being available, not being powerful enough, not caring, etc. These are all ways that I can harden my heart toward God.
Perhaps worse than any of the things that I just mentioned, I can ignore God; I can think that God is irrelevant, or act as if God doesn’t exist.
If I act this way toward God with any kind of frequency, does God leave me to own devices? That is, does God allow me build a heart that is gradually harder and harder?
Fortunately, what I know - beyond all of these things that I can do to build a wall between God and me - is that God is “... merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness...” (Exodus 34:6) If we show but a hint of an opening... if we open up our hearts to God, God swoops in... God forgives... God restores... God blesses... God does what God always does - God loves us, right back into wholeness.
Here is another scripture to reflect on today: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
Give us that heart of flesh, O Lord. Heal us! We want to be your people - people who heap love on You... people who heap love on others... people who heap love on our enemies... people who heap love on all of your creation. Give us new hearts so that we can love as you love us. Amen.